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Parshas Chukas

Rabbi Pesach Siegel

Parshat Chukas

Oct 21, 2009

 

 

In this week's parsha Moshe and Aharon are told that they will not merit being the ones to bring the Bnei Yisroel into Eretz Yisroel (perek 20, posuk 13).

They stand accused of failing to sanctify Hashem properly.

The Bnei Yisroel were at the end of their travels through the desert. Their physical needs were provided for in a miraculous manner for the past forty years. Manna fell from the heavens, their clothing grew with them and didn't wear out. In the merit of Miriam a stone produced water for the entire nation. At her passing the flow of water ceased.

The Bnei Yisroel accused Moshe and Aharon of bringing them to the desert, inevitably, to perish. Of what purpose was their leaving Mitzrayim? They longed for Eretz Yisroel, and doubted their ultimate entrance into the land.

Moshe and Aharon were commanded to take Moshe's staff, gather the nation, and speak to the rock. It would then give forth of its waters.

They gathered the Bnei Yisroel in front of the rock and rebuked them, "Listen rebellious ones, from this rock we will bring forth for you water." (perek 20, posuk 10)

Moshe proceeded to strike the rock twice, water flowed forth in abundance.

The commentators endeavor to find the flaw in the conduct of Moshe and Aharon which warranted the punishment brought upon them.

Rashi comments that Moshe was commanded to speak to the rock and instead he hit the rock. The Rambam explains that the fault was to be found in Moshe's reaction to the complaint of the people. He allowed himself to be provoked and come to anger.

The Ramban questions Rashi's view. Hashem told Moshe to take his staff. Of what purpose did he require this of Moshe if not for him to hit the rock? The Ramban also differs with the Rambam on his interpretation of Moshe's reaction. Moshe was not brought to anger. His words to the Jewish people were meant as a rebuke for their lack of faith in Hashem.

The Ramban also questions Aharon's role in the affair. Not once, in his entire life, did Aharon HaKohen ever allow himself to get angry. Aharon was not the one who hit the rock. Why then, is Aharon included in Moshe's punishment?

Hashem punishes "mida k'neged mida", He makes the punishment fit the crime. Why is not entering Eretz Yisroel a fit punishment for what Moshe and Aharon did? (The Baal HaTurim comments on the verse "Lachen lo saveiu es hakahal hazeh el haaretz" - Therefore you will not bring this congregation into the land. The numerical value of the word "lachen" is 100, which is the same as the words "mida b'mida".)

The Ramban quotes the words of Rabbeinu Chananel. Moshe and Aharon are faulted for saying to the nation "From this rock "WE" will bring forth for you water." (perek 20, posuk 10)

Forty years previously, Moshe assembled the Bnei Yisroel. In a grand assemblage, in the presence of the elders, Hashem caused a heavenly cloud to descend on the rock. Moshe struck the rock and water flowed from it. It was evident that Hashem directly wrought this miracle.

For the second time the Bnei Yisroel stand together awaiting a miracle. For Moshe and Aharon to proclaim that "WE" will bring forth water from this rock is deemed inappropriate. It conveys the impression that they are the ones producing the water.

It is for this reason that Moshe and Aharon are equally faulted. Both of them were responsible for this pronouncement.

It still remains to be explained the link between the above mentioned flaw and the repercussion of not being allowed to enter Eretz Yisroel.

Let us turn back the pages of history to find a parallel occurrence. In Parshas Vayera, the Torah relates how heavenly angels were sent upon Earth to save Lot, the nephew of Avrohom Aveinu. They hastened him to leave Sodom, the city of his residence. "We are about to destroy this city", they said. The Medrash Rabbah tells us that as a result of their uttering the word "WE", they were doomed to remain on Earth for another 138 years. One hundred and thirty eight years later Yaakov Aveinu dreamt. He saw angels going up a ladder and coming down the ladder. The medrash points out that the order should be reversed. First angels must descend from heaven. The medrash explains, these angels that Yaakov saw in his dream were the ones who destroyed the city of Sodom. They were already on the Earth and had to ascend the ladder to return to shamayim. Only then were they sent on a new mission, to accompany Yaakov, and they went down the ladder. (Breishis Rabbah - Parsha 68, paragraph 18)

How is it possible for a "malach" to appear to take credit or initiative for a mission he is sent upon? The entire fabric of a "malach's" being is that he is inherently made up of "tzivuy Hashem" - The command of Hashem. He has no will of his own. Hashem's wish is his wish.

Perhaps we can understand this by focusing on the particular form of these "malachim". They were sent in the guise of men. Even Avrohom Aveinu was unable, at first, to pierce their disguise. One of the prime functions of a "guf" - a body - is to mask the spirituality that a human being is composed of. Man has the appearance of being independent, self sufficient. This facade facilitates "bechira" - free will. If we would be privy to what our true selves and makeup are, we would be devoid of free will. We, therefore, tend to take credit for our actions and successes.

A "malach" who possesses a "guf" is not the same as one with no "guf". His actions have the appearance of being his own. Hence, that is the manner in which he expressess himself. But this being the case, he is no longer fit to return to shamayim. In shamayim the roots of all things are clear. Everything is dependent on Hashem for its very existence.

Yaakov's dream was the dream of the Beis HaMikdash. His task on this world is to forge a nation that would take the physical of this world and reunite it to its roots. To see past the misrepresentation of the "guf". The "guf", in reality, is not a portion apart from its creator. It is part of a grand scheme to extend the honor of Hashem upon all of creation. (Perhaps this is why the "malachim" were exiled for 138 years. The numerical value of 138 is the same as the word "chelek" - portion.)

Once Yaakov has begun the process of forming the Beis HaMikdash in this world, the "malachim" return to the heavens. These same "malachim" are sent down to accompany Yaakov on the continuation of his mission.

From this we can glean an understanding into the punishment of Moshe and Aharon. Eretz Yisroel is the manifestation on this Earth of the shamayim. It is the realm where Hashem's presence is clearly apparent. The place where the Beis HaMikdash resides. One whose utterings give even the impression of independence cannot enter Eretz Yisroel. (It is needless to point out that this punishment was meted out to Moshe and Aharon specifically because of the lofty level that they both achieved in this area.) This is possibly what the Bal HaTurim meant when he said the punishment is "mida k'neged mida".

When the third and final Beis HaMikdash will be built, "bimhera biyameinu", then the time will come for Moshe and Aharon to enter Eretz Yisroel.

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